Métis and non-status aboriginals will be granted federal recognition and status under the Canadian constitution.
The ruling from the Supreme Court of Canada this week is being heralded by Métis leaders, the estimated 600,000 Métis and non-status aboriginals, and supporters.
“I think all Metis feel a great sense of relief and pride, we are no longer a nation that has no voice,” said Ed Dandenault, president of the Chilliwack Metis Association.
“We will no longer be tossed back and forth between the provincial and federal governments.”
The landmark court case took 17 years to get through the system.
“We can now move ahead, and gain our rightful place in Canadian Society,” he said, noting that Metis are “are a very proud and strong people.”
The regional group, Metis Nation BC and all other Metis governing bodies can now negotiate with the federal government to improve conditions of the Metis “not only in the Fraser Valley but throughout Canada.”
Dandenault pointed out it was achieved through: “patience, perseverance and a shift in the attitude” of not only the courts but also governments.
It’s going to mean a fundamental shift in the relationship.
“It’s justice,” said Louis De Jaeger, member of the Chilliwack Metis Association. “For over 100 years we have held tightly to our culture, our language, our arts, all while suppressing our sense of pride.
“Not having an equal place with our Indigenous brothers and sisters has been hurtful, abusive, and shameful,” he said.
The court ruling describes leaving communities in a “jurisdictional wasteland” depriving the Metis of services and benefits, and leaving them disadvantaged there was no formal recognition for Metis, or non-status aboriginals as “Indians” under the Constitution.
“While finding Métis and non-status Indians to be ‘Indians’ under s. 91(24) (of the Constitution) does not create a duty to legislate, it has the undeniably salutary benefit of ending a jurisdictional tug-of-war,” wrote Justice Rosalie Abella.
The court ruling effectively answers the question of who has responsibility for Métis and off-reserve aboriginals, and the duty to consult.
“Meegwetch to the Supreme Court of Canada,” said De Jaeger. “Let the healing begin. It truly is a proud day to be Canadian.”
It’s all part of wanting to look forward to a new relationship with Canada, he added.
It could affect future treaties, as well as education, health care, culture and language issues.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted this comment on Thursday after the ruling was made public:
“We respect today’s Supreme Court ruling on Métis and Indigenous peoples. We’ll review it closely and work to advance reconciliation.”